As temperatures continue to drop nationwide, the time for outdoor trail runs, laps around your neighborhood track, and long-distance road running is finally upon us. Whether you’re a seasoned competitor or you’re looking to take on a new cardio challenge, running is a holistic exercise choice that builds endurance, relieves stress, and pushes your physical limits with every stride. Regardless of your experience level, perfecting proper running form is essential for crushing your PRs and achieving all of your fitness aspirations. Check out these easy tips for improving running form and watch your goals take off!
When it comes to your form, things are looking up–literally! Holding your head high and focusing your gaze ahead of you instead of straight down is an easy way to maintain the right running posture. Though it may seem slightly counterintuitive, especially when running on rough terrain or unpredictable trails, running with your head up instead of looking straight down is an ideal way to keep your torso, and the rest of your body, in proper alignment.
Lifting your head also allows you to better relax your jaw and neck, which are lesser-known problem areas for storing major tension. Remember to release your tongue from the roof of your mouth while running, and try adding a few neck stretches to your warm-up to avoid overworking your shoulders or shortening your arm swing.
Position Your Pelvis
Much like when you’re busting out your favorite dance moves, good running posture is all in the hips. Whenever you’re in-stride, your pelvis should be in a neutral position so that it doesn’t interfere with the functionality of your attaching muscles. Tilting your pelvis forward or backward is easier than you think, so many running experts recommend pre-workout pelvic exercises to help accurately identify your hip’s perfect positioning.
Master Ear-to-Pocket Arm Swing
Proper arm swing and hand placement are key elements for improving running form. More often than not, you’re probably not swinging your arms enough, even if you feel like you’re giving it your all. As with every other part of your body when you run, staying relaxed while you swing your arms and practice hand placement is crucial.
A classic pro-tip that you may have heard from your high school track and field coach is to lightly cup your hands as if holding an egg and making sure to keep your thumbs up (not turned inward) as you run. This helps to keep your wrists loose while giving you more range of motion for swinging your arms. Regardless of how wide your stride is, you should always bend your arms at a 90-degree angle and swing as if you’re reaching for your ear and pants pocket (hence, ear-to-pocket form). This open arm swing allows for maximum lung capacity and helps to elongate your stride, which results in faster times and helps you fight off natural fatigue for longer.
Get Shoes That Fit
Not all running shoes are created equal! In fact, distances, mileage, terrain, and type of running are all important factors to consider when picking your perfect pair. A general rule of thumb for achieving a good fit is to try running shoes on in-store along with the help of a running professional. This takes the guesswork out of the shopping experience while also ensuring you receive the most accurate and updated industry insight for proper footwear. Check out these additional tips from our blog for finding the right running gear to help you increase your mileage and reduce the chance of injury.
Old school running methods used to focus a lot of emphasis on maintaining a stiff spine and a rigid upper body. However, having a relaxed upper body has turned out to be the true key to a strong finish, longer strides, and high-power endurance, especially during a long-distance run. While you’re running, remember the proper arm swing technique (ear-to-pocket) detailed above to achieve your most flexible, and injury-preventative, state.
Try incorporating upper body exercises into your warm-up to help loosen things up, taking special care to focus on the arms and shoulders. Another easy way to stay relaxed during your warm-up is through meditation. Try to channel positive, calming thoughts or practice breathing exercises for one minute as you prepare for your next trail run or sprint circuit. Always remember, the more relaxed you are, the further you’ll go––literally!
What are some other tips or exercises you use to improve your running form? Tell us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!